I love tennis, its one of my number one sports. What a better way to combine two of my loves, sport and travel in one and visit all Grand Slams. Not only visit all Grand Slams but to watch a match on centre court was my dream.
The Aussie Open was my first Grand Slam, I went with a mate of mine and we spent the whole two weeks in Melbourne visiting the tennis everyday of the Tournament.
One of my work colleagues’ auntie worked for Ticketek and she kindly organised our tickets. The first week of ground passes and the second week front row tickets for the entire week including the finals!!
I had such a great time for the whole two weeks sitting in the sun, watching every major tennis player that year and also sitting in the front row I collected quite a few autographs including the two winners Jennifer Capriati and Thomas Johansson on my tennis programme which I still treasure to this day.
The women’s final of 2002 would have to go down as one of the best ever Jennifer Capriati verses Martina Hingis. It was a bloody hot day, easily forty degrees in the shade, I was sweating buckets just sitting there in the sun watching them. Capriati went on to win the epic battle in an amazing comeback three setter and Hingis was carted off in a wheelchair from heat exhaustation.
Not long after arriving to live in London I spotted an ad on a job website looking for people to work at Wimbledon. I jumped at the chance of working there, but to realise my dream of actually visiting The Championships, its very hard to get tickets to Wimbledon on the show courts with most people hoping they are successful by ballots.
I worked for a company called Clean Event and yep you guessed it our job was to keep the place clean. We arrived at Wimbledon a few days before the tennis was to begin and were ushered into the stands of Centre Court. I was in awe there I was sitting in the most famous tennis court in the world. I still couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as we were all given rags and told to clean the seats on the court. I kept looking at the court in one of those pinch me moments am I really here. While wiping away I struck up at conversation with Omego one of my fellow workers, he was in London studying finance on a student visa from Jamacia, he talked me into applying with him to work in the corporate suites for the tournment and we became work partners, walking the halls of the corporate suites everyday making sure everything was kept clean for all the corporates. This was a pretty easy job we only had to do the rounds every few hours and in the meantime we could walk around underneath the courts in the tunnels, watching the players come on and off the courts, spend time in the workers canteen under Court One or my favourite, we would go and watch the tennis, we became seat minders and were allowed to watch the tennis and take the spare seats or the seats of people who were on a break from watching tennis. Omego had a mate who was working as a chef in the corporate suites so every evening at dinner time we would go and visit him and he would make plates for us, the expensive stuff that people were paying thousands of pounds for! I was loving Wimbledon.
It was with saddness that the two weeks were coming to a close but fortunatley being an Aussie it was extra special on the last day because an Aussie had made the final Lleyton Hewitt. Of course I was going to be there! A lot of the Clean Event workers didn’t have much to do whilst the final was on anyways so we went over to Centre Court showed our ID and stood at the back behind the spectators and watched the game. Little Rusty (Lleyton) won, what a great way to finish my two week job working at the biggest tennis tournament in the world!
It was awhile in between tennis tournaments but in 2008 it was time to visit the French Open. Like Wimbledon it is hard to come by centre court tickets. One day I was browsing through ebay and came across an english guy selling a bunch of French Open tickets, he puts in the ballot every year for a heap of tickets and sells the ones he doesn’t use for a little over the ticket price and gives the extra money he makes to charity. I thought this was a great idea becasue a) he is helping out a charity and b) I had me tickets to Roland Garros for two days of tennis watching.
I flew into Paris and headed straight for the tennis and my seat on Centre Court, it was a lovely day and yet again I had a big smile on my face. I was watching Rafael Nadal in action, sliding around on the court, on his favourite surface. During every break guys would come out with big rakes and smooth the court over ready for the next play. It was quite fascinating sitting there taking it all in.
Unfortunately the hostel I picked to stay was the worse I’ve ever stayed in, a room full of double bunks with mouldy mattresses. The hostel didn’t supply any bedding, as I came over for the night from Dublin I didn’t bring any sleeping bag so layed there on the mouldy mattress all night with my backpack firmly clutched between my legs in fear of it being stolen by the drunken revellers entering the room throughout the night. My shower the next morning consisted of a pipe emerging from the wall with trickling cold water coming out of it. Boy was I glad to get out of there and back to the tennis, I had a ground pass and walked around soaking up the atmosphere for the day before heading back to the airport and a flight back to Dublin.
With three down and one to go I booked a week in New York the summer of 2009 and managed to easily book tickets through ticketmaster for three days of tennis, of course including a day and night session on Centre Court.
Well the day had arrived I had safely made it to New York and my accommodation wasn’t so bad, I booked my own room in a hostel and was only woken up once by mice chewing through my packet of M&M’s. I got ready and caught the subway to Flushing Meadows full of anticipation of realising my goal of visiting every Grand Slam. Yet again I had a big smile on my face as I got my ticket checked and walked into take my seat at Arthur Ashe stadium the centre court of the US Open. I asked the gentleman sitting next to me if he could take my photo, “Oh my God, that’s amazing,” he exclaimed as I told him of my feat. Roger Federer was on court that day what a great way to finish off my Grand Slam
I have been so fortunate to see the biggest players during my tennis travels from Pete Sampras last match at Wimbledon, the Williams sisters winning Doubles Grand Slams, great Aussie Champions Lleyton Hewitt and Sam Stosur and my favourtie player Monica Seles (I got her autograph too). If you ever find yourself in Melbourne, London, Paris or New York when the tennis is in town, get along to a match, it is a great way to spend a day or two and work on the suntan at the sametime!